CD Review of With Love and Squalor by We Are Scientists

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With Love and Squalor
starstarstarhalf starno star Label: Virgin
Released: 2006
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A quick shoutout to the boys in We Are Scientists for putting together one of the simplest, most striking, and downright adorable album covers you’re likely to see all year. In front of their faces, they’re holding…kittens. Awwww, look at the cute little kitties! Okay, it’s a cheap trick, but it worked. We are now feeling warm and fuzzy as we pop the disc in to enjoy this new rawk & roll outfit, with some odd name that sounds like a Radiohead song title.

Well, it certainly starts out promisingly enough. “Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt” has one of those instantly hummable guitar riffs, some quirky interplay between bassist Chris Cain and drummer Michael Tapper, and a chorus that guys will sing at the tops of their lungs in a club to that cute girl that’s just downed her third Long Island: “My body is your body, and I won’t tell anybody / If you want to use my body, go for it.” Trust me, it sounds catchier than it reads. “Can’t Lose” sounds like a lost Weezer track, with a laconic vocal from “singing guitarist” Keith Murray and some bursts of guitar shrapnel, framed by yet another slightly off-kilter drum track. “The Great Escape” is another killer single, with a staccato vocal and larger than life chorus. Kittens and hooks! These kids are all right!

Oh, but why won’t this feeling of sameness leave me alone? Didn’t they play this song already? No? Damn, it reminds me of the one before it. You know, the one with the mathcore drum beats and the slightly detached, presumably ironic vocals. We Are Scientists get credit for coming up with a signature style that stands out in a very homogenous rock scene, but they could have greatly benefited from a little variety on that sound. Every song has that damn off-kilter thing to it, and once we know that they’re going to zag right after they’ve zigged, it’s not quite as much fun following them.

With Love and Squalor bats a good .500 in terms of delivering the goods, and while that’s a hell of a batting average, certainly in comparison to most bands these days, the lack of variety ultimately does them in. They got one nifty trick, and they do it well. But we’re not talking about the Ramones or Motörhead here. Bands like We Are Scientists need a few more tricks with which to coax the elusive masses. Next time, a bigger laboratory would work wonders.

~David Medsker